Borough named for Kentucky estate
ASHLAND - There are more than 20 communities in the United States that share the name "Ashland," all thanks to one person, Henry Clay, a native of Lexington, Ky.
According to information provided by the Ashland Area Historical Preservation Society, the former Kentucky senator and congressional representative was a strong advocate for the coal industry, working to establish high tariffs,
or charges on imported coal. Communities where coal was discovered became very profitable and soon named their towns after Clay's Kentucky mansion and plantation, named "Ashland" because of the many ash trees on the property.
The Schuylkill County borough of Ashland honored Clay by naming the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine's 1927 0-4-0 lokie in his honor.
Ashland's founding, according to information from the Ashland Area Historical Preservation Society, had its roots in 1820, when Jacob Rodenberger built a crude log cabin in the area of what is now known as the block between Seventh and Eighth streets between Middle and Centre Streets.
The society believes Rodenberger was employed by the stagecoach company to operate a tavern in the cabin along the Centre turnpike, which took travelers from Sunbury to Philadelphia in a week.
Burd S. Patterson, a frequent traveler from Pottsville, saw potential in the ravine running west from the Mahanoy Creek and envisioned a prosperous town there, particularly if coal was discovered.
Many were skeptical of his dream, nicknaming the area "Patterson's Folly." In 1845, John Penn Brock and Hames A. Hart, of Philadelphia, partnered with Patterson to purchase 400 acres of land around the tavern. The town, laid out in 1847 and became known as "Ashland Estates." By 1857, the population had grown to 3,500 people with 500 buildings.
Ashland Estates was part of Butler Township, but was incorporated as a borough on Feb. 13, 1857.
As of the 2010 census, the 1.7-square mile community had 2,817 residents.
Borough officials are:
Dennis Kane, mayor; Fred Spieles, borough council president; Raymond Walacavage, council vice president; Patti Wesner, president pro-tem; Daniel Weikel, Patrick Cooney, Ann Marie Groody and Danny Johnson, council members; James Diehl, solicitor; Thomas W. Joyce, borough manager/secretary; Patricia Moyer, treasurer/office manager; Adam Bernodin, police chief; Phillip Groody, fire chief, and Barbara Lyden, code/deputy health officer.
The town's most popular attraction is the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train, which gives visitors a glimpse at a working coal mine.
The Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company operated the Pioneer Colliery from 1911 to 1931. The tunnel was blasted shut after operations ceased.
In 1961, borough manager Emil Ermert and borough solicitor Harry Strouse had the idea of opening up the tunnel to promote Ashland and boost its economy. The Pioneer Tunnel has grown to one of Pennsylvania's top tourist attractions, sending visitors 1,800 feet into the Mahanoy Mountain to witness the work environment of anthracite coal miners.
While the borough hosts several events throughout the year, Applefest on the third Saturday in October, the Downtown Christmas event on Dec. 15, and Pioneer Day on the third Saturday in August, it was a chance meeting at a Shamokin convention that lead to its oldest community gathering: the Ashland Boys Association and the ABA Mummers Parade.
On July 4, 1903, at the state Patriotic Sons of America convention, Horatio Seeley, a delegate from Hazleton, Shamokin residents Harry Leam, Allen Rich, Frank Seeley and J.F. Hoover, and Ashland resident C.C. Hoover, got together to talk about old times growing up together in Ashland.
After a night of reminiscing, the group decided to continue the reunions on Labor Day. Those reunions became the catalyst for the formation of the Ashland Boys Association, chapters of which came into existence outside the area.
The Ashland Mummers Parade evolved from the re-creation of people meeting the train that carried the Philadelphia contingent on the Saturday evening before Labor day. The parade became the kickoff for the ABA festivities.
The Ashland Boys Association was disbanded in 1976, but the tradition lived on with the ABA Mummers Parade, which was canceled in 2009 due to lack of volunteers, funds and parade participants.
The parade was rejuvenated in 2011 with enough emergency vehicles, a few floats and vintage cars to get the parade back on track in a limited way. Organizers hope the parade honoring the former Ashland Boys Association grows in the coming years.
The ABA was helpful in bringing another iconic symbol to the borough, the bronze Mothers Memorial statue, erected in 1938. The association raised $7,000 during the height of the Great Depression to bring the one-of-a-kind statue to the area, based on James McNeill Whistler's painting, "Whistler's Mother," which is on display in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.
The borough holds an annual ceremony at the site on Mother's Day, honoring mothers everywhere.